Medium 9781626565807

Mastering the New Media Landscape

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The New Way to Get Noticed


The giant brands that once dominated the media landscape—Oprah, the New York Times, NPR, CNN—have seen their monopoly on public attention smashed by the Internet and now find themselves competing with individuals and brands in a sea of micromedia: websites, social media, blogs, podcasts, and more. Ace publicists and marketers Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton show that to navigate through this modern terrain, you need to think more like a media executive than a marketer. The key lies in mastering three crucial categories of media—earned, owned, and rented—and knowing how to integrate each for maximum success. By using this proven strategy, you can create a positive feedback loop that will generate massive momentum and grow a large, loyal audience for your message.

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1 Welcome to the Age of Micromedia

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DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES to master the new media landscape?

Few are aware that they do have what it takes, and, in truth, we didn’t either until we embraced a new approach that took us out of our comfort zone and into a brand new approach—a micromedia mindset.

In the coming pages, we’re going to explore how we arrived at this new media landscape and what we can learn from lessons of the past as we plan for a future media environment none of us can possibly predict.

What’s ironic is that we’re not that far removed from a PR environment that, against the backdrop of Periscope and Instagram, feels like the stone age of communications.

We entered our careers in public relations a couple of decades apart. Rusty’s first job out of college was with a book publicity agency in Austin, Texas, while Barbara left her editor’s desk at NBC Radio in Washington to join Workman Publishing in Manhattan. Although the years we began our careers were 2004 and 1989, respectively, when we crossed paths in 2009, we quickly decided that our viewpoints, skill sets, and even the age gap contributed to making us ideal collaborators. We both had a solid foundation in public relations, but Rusty, a digital native, brought social media expertise and a skill for helping others understand it, while Barbara brought years of New York publishing experience and a journalist’s eye for shaping content suitable for both traditional media and micromedia. Since joining forces, we have teamed up on scores of projects, from working with leading brands like IBM, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Campbell Soup Company to grow their audiences, to launching bestsellers like Strengths-Finder 2.0, The Confidence Code, and The One Thing. We can confidently report that rather than sticking to our core capabilities, we’ve each created a company of professional communicators who can work across disciplines in today’s complex media world.

 

2 Technology Gives Rise to New Rules of Communication

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TOM RATH IS A STATISTICIAN AT HEART. Someone who, despite the break-out success of books like StrengthsFinder 2.0, and How Full Is Your Bucket?, remains a well-mannered Midwesterner who prefers to fly under the radar and could live happily off the grid. So imagine our trepidation when, at long last, we convinced him to do some desk-side briefings in New York, and Tom’s sense of polite protocol and technology went head-to-head.

Barbara was gleefully shuttling Tom to media appointments when the unthinkable happened during a lunchtime chat with a reporter from Fortune. Unable to simply turn off her smartphone lest a journalist need to reach her and shuffle the day’s schedule, Barbara found herself staring at Tom’s mortified face when the phone’s insistent vibrating began to make the tabletop quiver. A quick glance at the screen revealed a local area code, so Barbara stepped into the hallway to attend to what seemed quite likely to be a schedule change or other piece of crucial information. The call? It was a recorded voicemail from her Manhattan hotel informing her that the time of turn-down service had been changed and would now commence at 8 p.m., rather than 9 p.m. Fortunately, Tom is a forgiving soul, but this is all too familiar a scene in our world where the rules of good communication—some might even say basic manners—seem to have been turned on their head.

 

3 Understanding the Opportunities in Micromedia

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IN THE FALL OF 2014, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson wrote a tremendous article in the Financial Times titled “The Invasion of Corporate News” that explored the disappearing chasm between journalism and PR, writing, “The lines between journalism and PR are rapidly becoming blurred as business interests bypass traditional media to get their message across.”1 He cites the growing number of companies, including Chevron, GE, Wells Fargo, Target, and others, that have created micromedia channels to provide entertaining and informative information that (they hope) their fans want to read and share. The goals of this new breed of corporate communications are no different from major media outlets: they want to create content that their audience is seeking so they can grow their influence. Journalists do this via news and companies, and individuals can now do it by telling stories about their products and services in compelling ways.

As part of the piece, Edgecliffe-Johnson interviewed Ashley Brown, who built Coca-Cola’s content marketing program before joining Austin-based Spredfast. She said, “If they can produce content that is sufficiently emotionally engaging and useful, fans will share it on social media. We advise customers that the world needs more great content.” Edgecliffe-Johnson continues, “But broadcasters and magazines no longer have a lock on distributing compelling stories: individual consumers are just as likely to do the job for brands.”

 

4 Earned, Rented, and Owned—Better Together

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THERE IS NO LARGER URBAN LEGEND in the PR world than that of the silver bullet—the one media hit that will instantly transform someone from an unknown to a rock star. We hate to bear bad news, but there isn’t such a hit and there never was. Highly coveted appearances with interviewers like Stephen Colbert, Charlie Rose, or the queen of all, Oprah Winfrey, often spike sales of a new product, boost books into bestsellers, and even send customers rushing for the advice of a featured guest or guru, but rarely does one appearance, even with these iconic journalists, mean lasting success. Media personalities such as Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, who became regulars with Ms. Winfrey, were the exceptions. This theory holds in today’s landscape, where the excitement and intensity of viral fame described in this book’s introduction also tend to be the standard, fleeting, fifteen-minute variety. There might be lingering notoriety, but lasting power is rare.

So, what does work best in the world before us? It is our deepest conviction that, earned, rented, and owned media not only complement one another but are greater than the sum of their parts when thoughtfully integrated. Approaching any of these alone will get attention, but it will not rival the leverage that will come when used in concert. They are inextricably woven together and are vital to anyone looking to getting a message out.

 

5 Discoverability and the Future of Marketing

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CNBC’S HEADQUARTERS ARE AS BIG and impressive as you might imagine.

From the huge satellite dishes out front to the intense security in the lobby, we were excited to see behind the veil of one of the most popular networks in the country and one of the most sought-after earned media opportunities in the PR world.

We had agreed to make the trip out from Manhattan to New Jersey to see our friend Gloria McDonough-Taub who then ran CNBC.com’s “Bullish on Books” section, a blog highlighting business titles and authors. She was a very important person to anyone with a business book to promote, as she was the gatekeeper for all content that appeared on that section of the CNBC website. If she didn’t see it, read it, and like it, you were out of luck.

We strolled by her desk and it was clear she had a lot of suitors for her valuable feature. There were stacks of books that had been mailed to her from around the country. Although CNBC exclusively covers business topics, it was clear the publicists targeting her wanted to expand her horizons. She held up cookbooks, health titles, popular fiction—even romance novels and young adult books.

 

6 Online Brand Audit: Getting Your Owned Media Infrastructure in Shape

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GETTING YOUR OWNED MEDIA INFRASTRUCTURE IN SHAPE

RUSTY SAT DOWN TO MEET JEFF for the first time at a coffee shop in Austin, Texas. He was a friend of a friend, and they had been introduced because they were both in the world of PR, and a buddy thought they would hit it off.

Prior to the meeting, Rusty did what he always does: he Googled Jeff and spent five minutes reviewing his website, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter feed, immediately forming a first impression of the person he was about to meet.

Before Jeff ever sat down at the table, Rusty knew about his recent trip to the Cayman Islands. His love of dogs. His political stance. The fact that his website wasn’t responsive (it didn’t work well on Rusty’s phone). He even knew about the client from two years ago who was unhappy with the work Jeff’s agency did (and the lack of response from the agency to that complaint).

Rusty, like most business people today, had already formed an opinion about Jeff before he even walked in the door, and that opinion was going to be very hard for Jeff to change.

 

7 Blogs, Bylines, and Killer Content: What You Can Learn from Traditional Media

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WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM TRADITIONAL MEDIA

ACCORDING TO A RECENT REPORT from IDC Research, 80 percent of us check our smartphones within fifteen minutes of waking up, a fact we pointed to in the book’s introduction.1 That means most of us are rolling over in our first seconds of consciousness to say good morning to our smartphone screen before we even say it to our partner! What did we miss while we were sleeping? Who liked the Facebook picture I posted last night? What were my friends sharing overnight on Instagram? Did anyone text me?

Media and information are everywhere, and billions of us are habitually tuning in throughout the day, beginning with the morning smartphone check. But where did that habit come from? Are you hooked on the crew at MSNBC’s Morning Joe? Is NPR’s Morning Edition critical to you feeling informed? Or are you a Reddit junkie end to end, not content until you see the front page of the Internet? No matter your preference, it is content that is pulling us to those outlets during those inevitable lulls when work seems far less appealing than a check of our favorite information sources and tugging at us before we sign off and finally allow ourselves some screen-free time while we sleep.

 

8 The Power of Rented Media

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CAN YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME someone tried to explain Twitter to you?

Both of us distinctly remember rolling our eyes as soon as we heard the stomach-turning lingo (“Tweet me”) and swore we would steer clear of what sounded like the most self-centered and narcissistic social media platform yet (which is saying a lot). Honestly, we had enough on our plates—as we’re sure you do, too—without having to worry about who to list for #FollowFriday or what planet an @ reply was from.

Putting aside questionable phrases like tweet, follower, and DM, what bothered us most about Twitter is what we perceived to be a “me-first” focus it seemed to employ. The last thing people needed was another way to keep up with what we were doing.

For example, people didn’t need to know that we were attending Book Expo America, SXSW Interactive, or the Writers’ League of Texas Conference. Rather, they need to know about how what we are hearing and learning at those places can benefit them. Our tweets these days focus less on lunch and more on sharing knowledge.

 

9 Getting the Most Out of Rented Media

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NOW LET’S TAKE A CHANNEL-BY-CHANNEL LOOK at the top rented media platforms in the world and how you can approach each to get the most out of the time you spend there.

If you are a fan of Twitter, you likely evangelize about its benefits to friends and family, urging them to hop on and connect. We do, and one of the hardest things about talking up Twitter is trying to explain it succinctly, in a way that doesn’t turn people off.

Many of those getting started on Twitter feel like they’re trying to read in a foreign language. It’s a confusing experience for beginners, in terms of not only how it works but, more important, the etiquette involved.

Remember, Twitter is frequently compared to a cocktail party or networking event, because unlike Facebook, which concentrates on those you already know, Twitter focuses to a large extent on who you want to know. If you are new to Twitter, imagine wlaking into a cocktail party with millions of people. The vast room is filled with people from all walks of life, and you immediately feel a mixture of intimidation and excitement.

 

10 Why Traditional, Earned Media Still Packs a Punch

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MARK TWAIN FAMOUSLY QUIPPED that “the reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.” The same can be said of traditional media. In fact, we find it almost comical that while a vague suggestion swirls that traditional media is outdated or soon to be extinct, literally everyone who walks through our doors wants coverage there. We’ve yet to see a wish list that didn’t include targets like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, or another large, national, traditional target.

A long history, a tangible format, huge perceived credibility, and the still-strong circulation, viewership, or listener numbers should be enough to convince even the biggest of social media stars that earned media in the physical world remains vital to commanding an audience. And that is good news, because ignoring media outlets that have been conveying information to the masses for decades results in a strategy that lacks the ability to reach all of a target audience. Unless those death reports become reality, traditional media matters.

 

11 Take the Stage: Launch a Speaking Career

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LAUNCH A SPEAKING CAREER

IN 2009, ACTOR ASHTON KUTCHER MADE HEADLINES when he set the lofty goal of collecting a million fans on his Facebook page. Next, he challenged CNN to a race for a million Twitter followers and won. In addition to amassing the audiences, the Twitter race was staged with the express goal of securing a donation of ten thousand mosquito nets for World Malaria Day. CNN lost the bet, bought the nets, and the story got the attention Kutcher was hoping for.1 In a post on the push for fans, Mashable’s Adam Ostrow wrote, “Hopefully, Kutcher and [then] wife Demi Moore will continue to use their massive new platform for good.”2 In 2015, Kutcher used his enormous online following to launch A Plus, a hub for stories that make a difference and create positive societal change, which is among the top fifty popular websites nationwide with thirty million unique monthly viewers.3

While few have the ability to attract such a large following, this story does illustrate a crucial but often overlooked component of building thought leadership status and a personal platform: what should you do with the audience you amass? Ideally, that engaged audience is the first step in creating a new and profitable market for your work. For many, this is the primary goal. Whether you hope to pack your suitcase for hundreds of gigs or hanker to secure just ten dates annually to address your core audience, would-be speakers need a specific set of tools and material to break into an area dominated by celebrities, former presidents, and captains of industry who routinely take in six figures for a single appearance.

 

12 Futureproof Your Media Strategy

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BASEBALL GREAT ROGER MARIS ONCE SAID, “You hit home runs not by chance, but by preparation.” This advice is particularly relevant as you prepare to step into an unknown media landscape that has reinvented itself in the span of a few decades and that shows every indication of evolving further at increasingly blinding speed. Whether you are drawn to the latest app or digital tool, or become overwhelmed at the prospect of mastering a new method of communication, there is no time like the present to dive in. With preparation, you will be ready for the evolving media landscape.

Predicting the future of media is largely folly. But experts do agree that technology will continue to change the way we live and work, and globalization will become even more deeply entrenched in our society as information flows seamlessly across geographical borders. Longtime journalist Eric Pfanner notes, “The convergence of digital media and technology, underway since the dawn of the Internet, will accelerate. Distinctions between old and new media will fade; and most media will be digital.” He further suggests that as new platforms for consumption evolve, media content will become more important.1 That growing need for content is important, even crucial. Those who create it will remain relevant and visible despite the tsunami of change.

 

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